Another solid SLR by East German VEB Pentacon (Dresden). As with the other later Prakticas, this camera's best feature is the super-strong shutter. (By contrast, the worst feature of the Super TL, which has a cloth shutter.) It's a vertical focal plane metal blade shutter with a very unique and sturdy wind stroke. It's hard to describe without doing it for yourself but let's say it feels like a mechanism that knows exactly what it's supposed to do and does it. With feeling.
Also like my other Prakticas it has what I think is an innovative film loading system ("PL"): the wind spool has two spring-loaded bars on it that clamp down on the film as it turns, not unlike the guard bar on a rollercoaster. All you do is line up the sprockets, wind on, and close the back. No threading at all! Very nice. You do have to make sure to slip the leader over a little guide at the bottom of the film plane, you'll see it.
Unlike the LTL and MTL series this model has a full-aperture metering system where lens diaphragm info is transmitted electronically to the meter via contacts on the back of the lens. That is, with the Pentacon 'electric' lenses. With other M42 lenses you get stop-down metering.
For this special service you are required to pony up for a hard-to-find PX21 4.5v replacement battery. Personally, and since my meter is a little wiggy, I just shoot it as is and use a handheld meter. Make no mistake, this is a perfectly serviceable all-mechanical camera.
Jammed shutter when I got it, the top curtain was stuck halfway down and the bottom curtain was wide open. I did something I would not recommend, figuring I had little to lose, I drew the curtain down with my fingers until it locked and was able to wind and fire after that. HOWEVER, now the curtains only open correctly every two out of three strokes, the third stays closed while it trips. I'm looking into this. Followup: A reader from Norway wrote in to say he had a similar problem and fixed it by removing the top cover and slowspeed assembly to reveal a shutter adjustment lever that can be reset by loosening a screw and pulling the lever towards the cocking mechanism. In his case (and mine) it didn't adjust far enough and required bending the speed setting mechanism slightly (thanks Trond!)
PS like the other Prakticas the light seals are string and felt, so last much longer than foam... indefinitely in fact. Nice not to have to replace those for a change!
Tips & Tricks
Meant for the Pentacon electric lenses but accepts any M42 screw mount lens AS LONG AS the thread depth is 5.6mm or less otherwise it may interfere with the mirror, possibly causing the shutter to jam... Conversely the 'electric' lenses can be used on other M42 mount cameras.
On lenses: the rewind knob collar is a switch, set to the open circle when using the 'electric' lenses -- aperture information is then transmitted electronically to the meter. When using regular M42 lenses, select the closed circle to indicate stop-down metering. The meter itself is turned on by pressing in the shutter release to the 'pressure point'. For more info on metering, follow the Links below to the online manual.
There is also a sneaky little shutter release lock, the shutter release button itself rotates to lock the shutter release. Line up the dots to lock, rotate to unlock.
Oh - like on the LTL3 there is a shutter advance reminder in the viewfinder, a little prong that goes away when the shutter is cocked. Kind of nice.